When the urinary tract is attacked by bacteria


Women have a greater risk of UTIs because they have a shorter urethra than men, thus allowing bacteria to more easily enter the urinary system. — 123rf.com

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is common, but it can be serious.

“Simple UTIs can be managed by your primary care provider, but when they become complex, leading to other issues or problems, you should seek the care of a specialist,” says Mayo Clinic urologist Dr Mitchell Humphreys.

The urinary system helps the body eliminate waste, excess water and salt.

It encompasses the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.

Bacteria can enter any part of the system, causing an infection.

A UTI may cause symptoms but not always.

Common symptoms are:

  • A strong urge to urinate.

    Even after using the toilet, that sensation “to go” may not go away.

  • A burning or discomfort sensation while passing urine.
  • Urinating often and passing only small amounts of urine.
  • Blood in the urine, which can look red, pink or brown.
  • Cloudy-looking or strong-smelling urine.
  • Pelvic pain.

Women, in particular, may feel pain and pressure around the pubic bone.

Symptoms may also depend on which part of the urinary tract is affected.

If you’re feeling back or side pain, that may be from a kidney infection.

If pain is in the lower belly, a bladder infection may be the culprit.

Especially in older adults, one effect of a UTI can be delirium, or feeling increased confusion.

“Typically, our immune systems are great at combating and preventing UTIs, but there are several situations and certain individuals that may be more prone to UTIs,” Dr Humphreys says.

These include:

> Female anatomy

Women have a greater risk of UTIs than men.

As a woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s, bacteria can more easily enter the urinary system.

Menopause also increases the risk of UTIs in women.

> Sexual activity

UTIs are not sexually-transmitted infections, but sexual activity increases the risk for UTIs.

Intercourse can cause bacteria to enter the urethra.

> Certain birth control methods

Diaphragms and spermicide, for example, increase the risk for UTIs.

> Catheter use

Catheters may be used by people in the hospital, or by those who are paralysed or have other neurological problems that make it difficult to urinate.

“A catheter is a foreign body and can serve as a highway to allow bacteria to have access to the bladder,” Dr Humphreys says.

> Recent urinary procedure

Urinary surgery or an exam with medical instruments can increase UTI risk.

> Other health concerns

People born with urinary tract problems or those who have kidney stones, prostate issues or suppressed immune systems are at increased risk of UTIs.

With prompt treatment, UTIs rarely cause complications.

But without proper treatment, UTIs can be serious.

Complications may include permanent kidney damage or sepsis, which can be potentially life-threatening.

UTIs are typically treated with antibiotics. Be sure to take the medication as directed.

The following methods can help prevent UTIs:

  • Drinking plenty of liquids.

    Water consumption dilutes urine, leads to urinating more frequently and flushes bacteria.

  • Wiping from front to back.

    After urinating or having a bowel movement, wipe from front to back to help prevent spread of bacteria.

  • Urinating soon after sex.
  • Avoiding potentially irritating products.

    Using deodorant sprays or powders in the genital area may irritate the urethra.

  • Switching birth control.

    Consider birth control methods other than a diaphragm or spermicide, which can contribute to bacterial growth. – By Susan Barber Lindquist/Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

UTI , urination


Next In Health

Scientists explain why we have Monday blues
Don't self-treat itchiness in your private parts
Is there a little voice in your head that speaks to you?
Cancer patient can speak again after rare voicebox transplant
My teenage boy is not growing tall
Why men don’t live as long as women
Talcum powder classified as ‘probably’ cancer-causing
When stones develop in your tonsils
Could an antibiotic kill the bad bacteria, but spare the good?
The way you walk can indicate your brain health

Others Also Read